Lilies on the Land

Aug 19 2023 | By More

★★★★☆      Beautiful drama

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241): Mon 14 – Sat 19 Aug
Review by Allan Wilson

Following on from the success of their production of David Haig’s Pressure in April, Arkle Theatre have returned to World War 2 for Lilies on the Land as the early evening Fringe offering.

The play, devised by theatre company the Lions part in 2001, turns the focus on the young women who joined the Women’s Land Army, more commonly known as the Land Girls. Rather than being a play with a single writer, this is based on diaries and interviews with around 150 of the young women who became Land Girls.

The cast of Lilies on the Land. Pic: Rob Shields

The Lions part might have chosen to present the testimonies as a series of powerful monologues, but instead, turned the text into a roughly chronological path from initial recruitment, through experiences of farm work, to the celebrations to mark the end of the War.

The resulting drama gives voice to many young women who, sadly, are no longer around to speak for themselves. The passage of time is indicated through the changing seasons on the land, from sowing to harvesting crops, and marked by historical audio recordings, such Churchill’s famous ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech from June 1940.

The four excellent actors, Alison Porter, Lyndsay Kennedy, Beth McLean and Sinead Gray, all play a variety of roles, and have a central character that we can follow through the course of the War. Unfortunately, director, Kate Stephenson, doesn’t ensure that these characters are clearly identified as being significant in the early stages, when many names are being passed around.


The actors readily switch between female and male characters, as they portray different Land Girls, in addition to farmers, labourers, American airmen, Italian and German prisoners of war. They also have to use their singing skills, occasionally solo, but more generally a capella, as songs from the period are occasionally used as a break in the dialogue.

We get to hear of the varied experiences of the Land Girls through the lives of the central characters and the others they portray. Some, from a middle class background, find it hard to adapt to outdoor toilets, tin baths and going into bushes beside a field when nature calls, while others blossom in their new environment, readily taking on new challenges as their confidence grows.

The cast of Lilies on the Land. Pic: Rob Shields

One girl becomes an excellent tractor driver (when she keeps her glasses on) and earns the respect and, eventually, the love of a farmer, leading to a wedding as the War ends. Another, passing a barn late at night, hears a cow in distress, and successfully delivers a calf, having only watched the process before. She feels ‘quite chuffed’ afterwards and received a pat on the back from the farmer.

Some girls find romance, either in short flings, or long-term romances. Others experience various forms of misogyny, ranging from inappropriate comments to assault. When one girl arrives on a farm, she hears the farmer say, ‘Look what they’ve sent us – a fine ornament for the mantlepiece!’. Another managed to fend off an attack by a farm labourer.


In addition to directing, Kate Stephenson, also worked on Costumes, giving each character an appropriate selection from the listed standard issue clothing that was provided for each Land Girl.

John Weitzen’s lighting reflected the general mood of the piece very well and combined well with the sound provided by Craig Robertson and Rob Shields.

Overall, Lilies on the Land is an excellent production, bringing life to the words of the Land Girls first recorded decades ago and making it relevant for people in 2023.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
The Royal Scots Club (Hepburn Suite), 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE (Venue 241)
Monday 14 – Saturday 19 August 2023
Daily at 6.30 pm
Tickets and details Book here.

Company website:

Facebook: @ArkleTheatreCompany 

The cast of Lilies on the Land. Pic: Rob Shields



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